That’s why it’s understandable that the organization made the move to bring up lefty starter Stephen Gonsalves and righty reliever Luke Bard. The hope could be that the two will help bolster the Red Wings pitching staff and help them get into the playoffs. Well, that, along with some good experience in a playoff chase at a new level of development.
Gonsalves will make his first AAA start on Thursday against Norfolk. When he and Bard make their Red Wings debuts, they will be the 37th and 38th pitchers to throw for the team this season, already a franchise record.
With that, I thought I’d bring out a Triple-A version of Nick Nelson’s Three-Bagger series. Below you’ll find three players at Rochester of particular interest.Here are three Rochester Red Wings to pay particular attention to in the coming weeks.
Those that follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been including the hashtag #CallHimUp on any of the tweets that mention Garver. He’s 26, and he’s put up tremendous numbers. In fact, someone close to the Red Wings said he’s “having one of the best seasons as a catcher in recent Red Wings history.”
Through 81 games this season, he is hitting .276/.378/.521 (.898). He’s hit 23 doubles and 16 home runs. Since being drafted in the ninth round of the 2013 draft, after his senior season at the University of New Mexico, he has continued to improve each season. That’s great since he was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 while playing in Cedar Rapids. This year, he’s been impressive, showing a strong knowledge of the strike zone and attacking driveable pitches into the gaps and over the fence, to either field.
As important in a catcher’s development, he’s improved tremendously behind the plate as well. He’s blessed with a very strong arm, and has always thrown out base stealers at a strong percent. While his pitch framing numbers aren’t as strong this year as last, pitchers rave about his ability to call a good game.
My first thought was maybe Wilson Ramos put up some strong numbers for the Red Wings. However, in 71 games for the team in 2010, he hit .241/.280/.345 (.625) with 14 doubles and five home runs (as a 22 year old) in 71 games.
In 2014, Josmil Pinto hit .279/.376/.457 (.833) with 17 doubles and six homers in 60 games for the Red Wings. In 2008, Jose Morales hit .315/.348/.426 (.774) with eight doubles and four homers in 54 games. In 2007, Morales hit .311/.366/.399 (.765) with 25 doubles and two homers in 108 games. In 2005, Rob Bowen hit .268/.368/.402 (.770) with 13 doubles and six homers.
And that takes us back through the Twins affiliation with Rochester. I think it’s safe to say that the season Mitch Garver is putting together is the best in the last 15 years, to be sure.
Meanwhile, Jason Castro is hitting .227/.322/.371 (.693) with 20 doubles and six homers in 80 games for the Twins. Backup Chris Gimenez is hitting .202/.317/.355 (.672) with four doubles and five homers in 47 games.
Garver has versatility too. He’s caught in 61 games. He played first base in five games, and he’s played 14 games in left field. While his range may be that of a catcher in left field, he would be a right-handed bench or DH option for the Twins.
There is no question that Mitch Garver will be called up for September. There should be little question that he should be given every opportunity next spring to break with the big league club. For good.
After starting the season 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA and a 2.18 WHIP through nine games and 11 innings for the Twins, the front office decided it was time to DFA the hard-throwing right-hander.
Tonkin was drafted by the Twins in the 30th round of the 2008 draft out of high school in California. He was given some opportunity to start, but in 2010, he made the move to the bullpen. He quickly became one of the Twins top relief pitching minor leaguers. Blessed with a 95 mph fastball and a good slider, he showed good control while striking out ten or more batters per nine innings pitched. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2013, and he went up and down for a few seasons. His first full season in the big leagues was 2016, his first season without options remaining.
This spring, he again made the Opening Day roster, primarily due to the options situation. But as we mentioned, by early May, the decision was made to let him go. Fortunately for the club, Tonkin passed through waivers and has been pitching late innings for the Red Wings this season.
And he’s been pitching well. In 23 games and 33 innings since joining the Red Wings, he is 3-2 with four saves. He has posted a 1.91 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He’s walking 3.0 batters per nine while striking out an impressive 13.1 per nine (48 strikeouts in 33 innings).
More impressive, in his last 15 games (21 innings), he has a 0.86 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. He’s walked three batters and struck out 34!
Tonkin is already 27, but maybe the extended trip back to AAA allowed him to figure something out. Maybe. Maybe not. But it does feel like he would warrant one last shot with the big league club to see what has stuck. If it looks legit, keep him on the roster. If not, you DFA him and let him become a free agent.
Every time the Twins sign someone out of independent leagues or promote a 27+ year old player to Rochester, I can always anticipate a certain faction of the Twins Daily readership cringing. I’m guessing that when the Twins signed RHP Tim Melville from the independent league Long Island Ducks earlier this season, several of you reading this hated it.
But Melville has made himself interesting, or at least he should be interesting to Twins fans. The still-just-27-year-old righty is 3-3 with a 2.55 ERA for the Red Wings in 10 games (nine starts) since joining their roster nearly two months ago. He’s got a 1.07 WHIP. In 60 innings, he’s given up 44 hits, walked 20 and struck out 58. If he was 1-2 years younger, we’d be crying out for him to get an opportunity.
Instead, Melville has had to live with the “bust” label, fair or not. He was a highly-touted prep player from Missouri. The Royals used a fourth-round draft pick, and a lot of cash ($1.25 million). He was a top prospect until he had Tommy John surgery in 2012. In 2014, he went 2-11 with a 5.50 ERA for the Royals AA affiliate and was let go by the organization. The Tigers swooped in and signed him for 2015. He went 7-10 with a 4.63 ERA in AAA.
In 2016, he signed with the Reds. He was called up and made his MLB debut on April 10th. He went 0-1 with an 11.00 ERA in three games (two starts) for the Reds. He was DFAd on April 22nd and went to AAA where he got hurt.
He found himself without an offer this spring, so he went the independent route. With the Ducks, he was 3-4 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in nine starts when the Twins signed him.
While his background doesn’t necessarily convince you that he’d have success if the Twins promoted him, his ‘stuff’ might. In his starts, he has been between 93 and 96 mph and been able to maintain that throughout the game. He’s got a pretty good curveball that can get swings-and-misses, and often gets weak contact. And his changeup is about average.
Now, I’m not saying he would come up and insert himself as a mid-rotation starter. Not at all. But maybe he can be the starting pitcher depth that Thad Levine talked about. Maybe he can be a guy at AAA who can make a few starts in the big leagues from time to time. Maybe not. But if the Twins bring him up in September and give him a shot, I certainly won’t feel bad about it. Maybe he can be a stop-gap until the new front office believes that the likes of Gonsalves, Romero, Jorge, Littell, Slegers are more ready for that role.
RED WINGS NOTEBOOK
OK, so I can’t stop at just three. Here are a few more Red Wings notes of note.
- Niko Goodrum is setting himself up to be a valuable utility player. So far this year, he has played first base (three games), second base (24 games), third base (16 games), shortstop (nine games), left field (one game), center field (13 games) and right field (40 games). In 106 games, he’s hitting .259/.308/.413 (.721) with 23 doubles, four triples and nine home runs.
- Matt Hague has quietly been very good for the Red Wings. In 110 games, he’s hit .294/.371/.405 (.777) with 21 doubles and eight homers. Very professional.
- Since his return from fractured fingers, Daniel Palka has hit .277/.329/.446 (.775) with a double, two triples and two homers in 16 games. Reports indicate that he’s been much better the last week or so and appears to be returning to form.
- Byungho Park started the season very slow, but he’s come on very strong. The 30-year-old is hitting .263/.321/.428 (.749) with 22 doubles and nine homers. In his last 57 games, he’s hitting .303/.351/.476 (.827) with 14 doubles and six homers.
- In 18 games since he returned to the Red Wings, Kennys Vargas is hitting .234/.338/.516 (.853). However, in his last two games, he has gone 5-8 with two doubles and a homer, which account for most of that stat line.
- Mason Melotakis has made 11 appearances (13.1 innings) since coming off the Twins 40-man roster for the Red Wings. He has a 2.03 ERA despite a 1.35 WHIP. Reports are that he’s been quite good despite the fact that his velocity has been way down from where has had been.
- Jake Reed is 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 14 games (18.2 innings) since joining the Red Wings. He has 16 strikeouts and six walks. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so a September call up should happen.
- John Curtiss has been with the Red Wings for about a month now. In 14 games (17.2 innings), he’s got a 2.04 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. He’s got eight walks and 24 strikeouts, so he’s been a bit more wild, but he’s certainly a candidate for a September call up.
- Aaron Slegers’ eight-game winning streak came to an end with his most recent start, but he’s been terrific and appears to be a very strong candidate for International League Pitcher of the Year. . He is 12-4 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 20 starts (123 innings). He’s got 91 strikeouts to go with just 27 walks. While he doesn’t profile as a top prospect because his “stuff” doesn’t grade out real high, Slegers knows how to pitch. He’ll give up some hits, but he won’t hurt himself with walks, and his home run rate has stayed down as well. He’s earned a shot at a September call up. However, the business side of the 40-man roster decisions and the Rule 5 implications may make him a tough choice.
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